If you had any lingering doubts that zucchinis were boring, wait till you try them in this vegetarian khoresht kadoo, zucchini stew, where they readily absorb the delicious flavors of the sauce. In this vegetarian khoresht kadoo, delicately flavored zucchinis are slow cooked in a rich and flavorful sauce of fried onions, garlic, tomato paste and spices. Furthermore, ghooreh, unripe grapes of seedless grape variety like Thompson grapes, imparts a unique flavor and bright tartness to this stew. Ghooreh can be found at Middle Eastern and Mediterranean markets in early June. Some stores may carry frozen sour grapes in their freezer section. Alternatively, other forms of ghooreh like the juice of sour grapes called abghooreh or ground sour grape which is dried sour grape that is ground into powder, can be used in this recipe.
Vegetarian khoresht kadoo is a tomato based stew very similar to khoresht bademjan. The only difference is the use of unripe sour grapes instead of limoo amani and of course zucchinis instead of eggplants.
Any type of protein can be used in this dish, but I chose tofu, because it doesn’t change the flavors of the dish. I use firm or extra firm tofu in my stews because they hold their shape better. I also press the liquid out of tofu so it will crisp nicely and better absorb other flavors in the dish.
To press tofu, line a kitchen towel with paper towel. Place the block of tofu over it. Wrap tofu in kitchen towel and weigh it down with a heavy object (I used a heavy pot). Leave at room temperature for up to an hour. If you don’t have time to press the tofu, wrap it in a towel or paper towels and gently squeeze the block by hand or better yet use a gourmet Tofu Press.
I always use the regular green zucchinis what botanists call summer pumpkins. These darker and thinner zucchinis are more tender and usually have richer flavor. When buying zucchinis, try to pick medium-sized firm ones that are free of nicks and cuts.
To prepare zucchinis for frying, first rinse their skin, then cut their stem ends and peel them. Pat dry with paper towel to reduce oil splatter during frying.
Wash the grapes and remove the stems.
To fry zucchinis, heat ¼ cup (4 tablespoons) olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add zucchinis and brown on all sides, turning them over frequently. Transfer to a platter taking care not to break them.
To make the sauce, heat oil in a deep pan over medium high-heat. Add chopped onions and fry for about 20 minutes or until onions are slightly golden. Add chopped garlic, tomato paste, turmeric, salt and pepper.
Cook for about 5 minutes or until the tomato paste is fried and changes the color of oil to a deep yellow-orange. Add sour grapes and saffron.
By letting tomato paste brown in the pan, and sautéing it with spices and other aromatic ingredients like onions and garlic, you can boost the flavor of your sauce in a huge way.
Unripe grapes are real sour as the name implies. I only used 1/2 cup of fresh sour grapes in this recipe. I like my stew flavors to be well balanced, but if you prefer overly tart flavors, use more grapes.
Finish the sauce by mixing in hot water. By adding hot water, the temperature of the dish remains the same, thus reducing the cooking time. This sauce has so much flavors already that there is not need for using vegetable stock. Besides, I don’t like the taste of some store-bought vegetable stocks.
Layer zucchinis in the pan and gently pour some of the sauce over them. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for about 30 minutes or until zucchinis are tender. Do not stir.
While vegetarian khoresht kadoo is cooking, cut tofu into cubes. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large non-stick skillet. Add cubed tofu. Fry each side until golden. The fried tofu has a crispy and firm exterior and a creamy and soft interior.
When vegetarian khoresht kadoo is cooked, add fried tofu and pour some sauce over them. Persian khoresht has to come together and what that means is the sauce has to reduce for the flavors to intensify and the oil has to rise to the top as you see in the picture above.
ALWAYS taste and adjust the seasoning. Just an extra amount of added seasoning toward the end could make a big difference in how your food tastes. Transfer vegetarian khoresht kadoo to a serving dish.
Using a wide pan with sloped sides for stew makes dishing out a lot easier without disturbing the ingredients. All you do is tilt the pan over the serving dish and let everything slide over. I find that a lot easier than fishing out the zucchinis without breaking them :).
Since we eat with our eyes first as the saying goes, the aesthetic appeal of the food is as important as its smell and taste. Therefore, always give some thought to plating and presenting your hard work!
Vegetarian Khoresht Kadoo
Prep time:15 min
Cook time: 1 hour 25 min
Ready in:1 hour 40 min
Yields: 4 servings
8 zucchinis rinsed and peeled with stem ends removed
1 large or 2 medium onions peeled and chopped
4 garlic cloves peeled and chopped (optional)
½ cup olive oil divided
2 tablespoons tomato paste
½ teaspoon turmeric
1½ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
pinch of ground saffron (optional)
½ cup fresh sour grapes gooreh or ¼ cup fresh lemon juice or abgooreh
1½ cups hot water
1 14 oz. package extra firm tofu (optional)
Heat ¼ cup (4 tablespoons) olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add zucchinis and brown on all sides, turning them over frequently. Pat dry zucchinis prior to frying to reduce oil splatter.
Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a deep pan over medium-high heat. Add chopped onions and fry for about 20 minutes or until onions are slightly golden. Add chopped garlic, tomato paste, turmeric, salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the tomato paste is fried and changes the color of oil to yellow-orange
Add sour grapes, saffron and water. Mix the sauce then layer zucchinis in the pan and gently pour some of the sauce over them. Bring to a gentle simmer. Lower heat to medium low, cover and cook for 30 minutes. Do not stir the stew once zucchinis are added.When vegetarian khoresht kadoo is cooked, add fried tofu and pour some sauce over them. Taste and adjust seasoning.
To press tofu, line a kitchen towel with paper towel. Place the block of tofu over it. Wrap tofu in kitchen towel and weigh it down with a heavy object. Leave at room temperature for up to an hour. When ready to fry tofu, drain off excess liquid, cut into cubes and season with salt. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large non-stick skillet. Add cubed tofu. Fry each side until golden
To save cooking time, wrap tofu in kitchen towel before you start cooking and fry zucchinis while onion is cooking. And while stew is cooking fry your tofu.